History of Pilgrim Baptist Church

1924 ~ 2014


More than a half century ago, a small group of Christians met in the home of the late Sister and Brother Leonard Crawford at 180-13th Avenue, Newark, NJ on February 8, 1920 to organize a Church. Sister Ethel Mingo’s father, the late Rev. John Heber Mc Davis, of the Zion Hill Baptist Church of Newark from 1917 to 1920 led the group until the late Rev. S. L. Henderson became pastor.


On March 1, 1924, another group of consecrated men and women associated with Bethany Baptist Church of Newark, assembled at the home of the late Deacon Coleman Harris at 22 Thomas Street, Newark, New Jersey. They gathered for the purpose of formulating a temporary organization in hopes of developing plans, for a permanent Baptist Church. This organization was called the Pilgrim Forum. Soon after, the late Rev. S. L. Henderson passed from labor to reward on April 15, 1924.


On April 22, 1924 at the Roosevelt Temple on Washington Street in Newark, the Pilgrim Forum became Pilgrim Baptist Church. The church was reorganized and the late Rev. E. Ethelred Ricks was called to the Pastorate.


The members of Pilgrim then purchased the building that once belonged to Fewsmith Memorial Church from the Newark Presbytery. On December 14, 1924 under the leadership of Rev. E. Ethelred Ricks, members marched into the current edifice in a spirit of thanksgiving, triumphant and praise.


Under the spiritual and scholastic leadership of the Rev. E. Ethelred Ricks, much progress was made and the membership increased rapidly. Baptistery and water fountains were installed in the chapel, the duplex envelope system was adopted and receptacles were placed in the pews for the communion glasses. Among other clubs that were formed, there was an active Sunday School Department and Baptist Young Peoples Union. Rev. E. Ethelred Ricks was the pastor for eleven years until he resigned in May 1935 to accept the call to pastor the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia. In the interim, the late Reverend Dr. Charles Weathers of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in New Brunswick, N.J and the late Rev. Paul Jones, an associate minister, supplied the church with credit for one year. Reverend Dr. Charles C. Weathers then succeeded Rev. E. Ethelred Ricks in 1936. He was a forceful leader and scholar. After serving for two years, he resigned.


Upon the resignation of Dr. Weathers’ labors, Elder Samuel A. Wilson, pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church at 589-91 4th Street, Newark, NJ, was given the spiritual oversight of the church for ninety days, during which time Elder Wilson suggested the merger of Pilgrim and Bethlehem Churches. After much prayer, the proper steps were taken and God brought the two bodies together by vote on August 2, 1939. Under the spiritual leadership of Elder Wilson, spirits were high, the church grew and major improvements were made. Two of his major accomplishments were the repair of the chapel roof and the payoff of the church’s second mortgage. Elder Wilson resigned at his own request to accept the call to pastor the Calvary Baptist Church of Norfolk, Virginia in 1943. Upon his resignation, Rev. Charles Howard, an associate pastor, guided Pilgrim Baptist for one year.


The late Rev. M. Benjamin Gaines of the Second Baptist Church of Atlantic City, N.J. was called to succeed Elder Wilson and he took charge on September 9, 1945. Under his spiritual leadership, God blessed the church and many good works were accomplished. The membership continued to grow and young people were attracted to God. The sanctuary was carpeted, a Pastor’s Study was erected on Hudson Street and an oil burner system was installed in both the sanctuary and chapel. Led by Brother Arthur H. Townes both buildings were redecorated by members of the church and an illuminated cross graced the sanctuary.


The late Reverend Arthur Washington Jones had been the spiritual leader of Pilgrim Baptist Church from 1950 - 1991.  Prior to his being called to the pastorate at Pilgrim Baptist Church of Newark, New Jersey, he served his God and his people at the Evergreen Baptist Church, Palmyra, New Jersey; Loyal Baptist Church, Dansville, VA., St. Paul’s Baptist Church,  East Riverton, New Jersey and the Zion Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA.


Throughout his stewardship of Pilgrim Baptist Church he has imbued his congregation with a commitment to serve the community in which it is located.  A monument to his leadership was the decision of the church to enter the filled of low and moderate income housing.  In order to meet the needs of the residents of Essex County, a 305 unit low and moderate income housing development, Pilgrim Baptist Village I and II of Newark, NJ was completed in 1978 and spearheaded the development of scattered site single family housing in the City of Orange Township.


Joining him in this commitment to both spiritual and social service to the community, his wife of 53 years, the late Ruth B. Jones.  The union of Arthur W. and Ruth B. Jones was blessed with three daughters, Ruth DuBois of Linden, New Jersey; Faye Hagler of Lawton, Oklahoma and Grace Sells (deceased).  One of Reverend Jones greatest delights was the family reunion which brings together his daughters and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 1992, Reverend Clarence E. Thomas became the pastor and presented a ten year Revitalization Plan to the Church. Under his plan, a new roof, windows, pews, carpeting, updated kitchen, Fellowship Hall, restrooms, and new classrooms were completed. Additionally, a new finance office was built, a new sound system and air conditioning was installed in the sanctuary. His plan also included new programs such as the Commission on Christian Education, Youth Movement, Sisterhood and a summer program for the Youth.


In April 2013, Reverend Dr. Glenn B. Wilson, Sr. the grandson of the late Elder Samuel A. Wilson who pastored Pilgrim from 1939-1943, became the seventh pastor. Since taking the pulpit, Reverend Wilson’s focus and vision for the church is to further develop and expand the churches’ ministries which include: spiritual development, grief counseling services, intercessory prayer groups, ministers’ training, entrepreneurship training, and support for married couples and overall Christian development.


In Dr. Wilson’s first year as pastor he transformed the Bible Study format, reactivated Pilgrims’ Men’s Ministry and under his leadership installed the PBC praise team choir. He designed a new church program and established a women’s Bible Study. Additionally, he restored the Fellowship Hall, and launched a new website for the church.


To Reverend Wilson credit through his leadership, teaching and warm spirit has brought a new spirit to the Pilgrim Baptist Church family.

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